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Sun, sand, sea and snot: The simple things

30 Nov

Today we bundled the children and dog into the car and headed off to West Wittering. We always seem to end up at the seaside when there’s a chill in the air, but it’s a beautiful setting to exhaust the children, blow away the cobwebs and exercise the dog.

What more could you want for on a winter’s Saturday morning.

Swallow the dog enjoying the seaside

Swallow the dog enjoying the seaside

At the beach







How to entertain a toddler on a long car journey

1 Aug

Last year – as a four month old baby – Toby took a strong dislike to long journeys in the campervan. As we drove across Europe, from North Spain to Norway, this became a serious problem and a source of car sickness for me. There was simply nothing that could be done other than close your eyes and pray for it to be over soon.

As we set off on our 1000 km campervan trip this year, memories of frantic wailing came flooding back – and I’m not talking about Toby’s tears. And I wondered, what am I doing to myself again? This year – against all odds of Toby now walking and not being able to sit still for more than  a second, things have seemed slightly (though not much) easier than last year. I’ve developed a few skills to ward off the crying:

  • When you see a tracter, act as though utterly amazed. It’s the first tractor you’ve seen in your life and it’s a miracle. Nothing beats the size of its wheels and the cow s*** on its windscreen.
  • If there’s no tractor to save you, point and shout with a tone of uber exctement: ‘Look [insert child’s name]’. This is often enough for them to forget thoughts of tears and look around in wonder as to what all the commotion is about. And once they’ve realised there is actually nothing to look at, they are so consumed with thoughts of what a loon their mother is that tears are the furthest thing from their mind.
  • Once the confusion has worn off, turn the radio on and dance and sing at the top of your voice. This re-ignites the confusion and haults the tears.
  • Repeat as required.

We saw Wiggins, Cav and Thomas

11 Jul

On day two of our holiday we packed up the van and bumbled over to the Team Time Trial stage of the Tour de France. France is great for its little villages and as we drove to our destination, we went through rustic village after pretty village. One Frenchman we met watches the Tour de France only to view the villages they pass though, and with such beauty, I don’t blame him.

We found a car park next to the Tour de France route, made a cup of coffee (one of the best things about being in a campervan is the ability to stop in the middle of nowhere for a coffee) and headed down to our front row seats for the Tour.

We turned up with a little bit of time to spare, so I took the opportunity to leave the boys, don my trainers and hit some of the country roads (not the ones the tour took). Running around rural France gives you a different perspective on the country – dirt tracks, open agricultural land, but it also makes me feel slightly nervous about getting lost. I usually just run in a straight line out, and then follow the same straight line back.

I got back to Tom and Toby (a sweaty and horrible state) just in time to see the first team pass. Our first contact with the Tour de France 2011; how very exciting.

Toby, as usual, needed lots of distracting while waiting for the lycra clad cyclists and their entourage. But as each team approached, along with the numerous motorbikes and support cars, Toby’s excitement levels peaked. He got an absolute kick out of the buzz and the colours the Tour brings and his waves were often returned by the lovely folks in the passing support cars, making our day extra special.

Viva le Tour

On tour with Toby

9 Jul

Last Saturday Tom, Toby and I set sail for our holiday in Don the campervan. We plan to follow a bit of the Tour de France and get some colour in our cheeks by sampling the local plonk and living life outdoors for ten days.

We’re four nights in and it’s been a riot so far. The French truly know how to make a good campsite, often having hedges between pitches, fabulous swimming lakes, great restaurants/bars and really clean facilities.  I love camping in France, and so does Toby. Being outdoors all days gives you an extreme sense of satisfaction and nothing comes close to letting Toby run wild.

However, now Toby is walking (or perhaps a more appropropriate verb is running) everywhere, holidaying has become slightly less relaxing. Last year, when Toby was a wee baby, we spent a lot of time in the campervan. At the time, I thought campervanning with a baby was difficult. As the moths have passed (could they have gone any quicker), our cute, adorable, peaceful baby has turned into a hyperactive, feral toddler.

One thing is for sure, I don’t need to worry too much about going for a run, or cycle or swimming up and down a pool. Toby is all the exercise I need (and more). The child just can’t sit still… not even for a second. You only have to turn your back for three seconds and he’s shot off the the other side of the field, found the most disgusting spot, with mud round his chops as he samples some of the local soil (why does he feel the need to eat dirt at every opportunity?).

We’ve had comments from other parents on the campsite about his inability to just walk. He has to run EVERYWHERE, and he hasn’t quite got control of his little stubby legs yet. At points, he builds up so much speed he has to fall to stop himself! His day starts at 6am and continues until about 8.30pm each night. I need a trip to the hairdressers – the grey hairs, like Toby, are getting out of control.

Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Silent Sunday

19 Jun

It’s a man’s cupboard

10 Jun

Tom has a cupboard in our house full of – what looks to me – rubbish. It has old leads, computer parts, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, t.v. boxes, phones. You name it, he’s hoarded it. I try to ignore this cupboard. It upsets me to think about it. In the past, I’ve tried to understand it. I’ve dug deep into his mind, but I just can’t make sense of it – both as a concept and as a physical thing.  Who needs to keep the Nokia they had when they were 17 – the first Nokia to hit the market.

Yesterday, I was asked to enter the junk wilderness and find something for him in the chaos. As I opened the door, things started flying at me. Poltergeist? No, just a very loaded cupboard with absolutely no order. I say no order, I am sure Tom thinks it is a well organised, tidy cupboard full of vital parts.

As the cupboard started crumbling around me, I feared for Toby’s life –  I feared for my life. Once the confusion of flying debris had passed, I found the box he was looking for and attempted to climb out of the wreckage. For a second, I smelt freedom but at that point I somehow managed to get a metal structure stuck between my big toe and the one next to it (not sure what it’s called??). Before I knew it, I’d lifted my foot up and attempted to put it down with said metal structure attached. This did not work. I found myself rolling, combat style across the room, twisting my toes on the fall and crumpling into a heap. Screaming in agony, Toby came running to see what all the commotion was about. He walked slowly up to his broken mother, looked me in the eye and started crying. I’d scared him… And I now have a very mangled, bruised and swollen toe.

This incident got me thinking again about the awful cupboard and the horror that resides. Why do we have it? It could be put to good use. Toby could certainly do with a cupboard. I happened to be involved in email banter with some of Tom’s male friends yesterday (I’m part of their team in a 24 hour mountain bike race and emails were flying around on this topic). In one reply I asked them whether they all had this apparently essential cupboard. The response was overwhelmingly in the positive. And I racked my brains and visions of my grandfather and father’s electronic rooms came to me (not cupboards, but rooms). Is this a universal phenomenon? A rite of passage to manhood?

My conclusion: we need a bigger house – one side for Tom and all his rubbish and one side for me. I refuse to die buried under a heap of leads.

How do you stop a toddler biting? Biting the hand that feeds you

6 Jun

Toby has recently taken to biting. He doesn’t bite everyone, but saves his lovely nashers just for me. And I ask myself, what on earth am I doing wrong? Why is the child that I sacrifice food for, sacrifice sleep for and sacrifice me time for, biting me? Do I deserve it?

I’ve been trying to work out whether there’s a pattern to the behaviour. His biting habit generally kicks in when I am sat at my desk, in front of the computer. When I’m working I have a window of Toby contentment. For about an hour he can entertain himself and leave me to get on with things. However, like a switch being flipped as soon as he realises I’m not paying him all the attention and as soon as he decides he is fed up, he starts hanging around with an air of irritation. Then like a vampire, starved for 100 years, out they come. For such little teeth they don’t half hurt and his clamp is so intense I struggle to release my poor skin from his clutches. Tom once heard me scream, ran over and ripped him off me, which made it even more painful.

So what do I do. My big fear is that he starts biting other kids. I did a bit of research on biting toddlers and wish I hadn’t. There’s advice out there on what to do if your child develops an infection from another child’s bite. I’m going to make sure Toby’s dental hygene is first rate to avoid any such situations.

My strategy of saying no, looking sad and even pretending to cry seems only to cause a roar of laughter from Toby. Have I created a monster? Any advice on how to deal with this ‘biting phase’ would be most warmly received.